So in light of the St. Louis Cardinals missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season, is it more difficult to maintain a winning tradition or try to restore one?
“That’s kind of a tough question,” responded Matt Carpenter. “One thing that we have here, that not every team has the luxury of saying, is tradition. That’s a real thing, whether people believe that or not. You can even tell by the way, you know, you can tell by the way people enjoy coming here and winning. People love to beat the Cardinals. People love to see the Cardinals struggle. People love to see the Cardinals in the media. That’s just the way it is.
“With that tradition, I feel like–the reality of it is, we’ve had two winning seasons in a row and we missed the postseason and it feels like it’s a disaster around here. The Giants won 50 games. That’s a good organization. I know they didn’t win 50, but it was a low number. So the expectation here is high–and that’s what we all want. But sometimes–that’s how I would answer that question–restore the winning tradition. We’re still winning, it’s just we have fallen short of our goal. We want to get back to that.”
With so many questions facing the Cardinals this off-season, Carpenter is hoping that he will still be around next year to help get things back to reaching those goals.
“That’s the main thing, you never know what’s going to happen but assuming I get another opportunity, I want to do that,” he said.
Carpenter still has two years, plus a team option remaining on the $52 million extension he signed in 2014. But that does not provide any guarantees.
“I just think the reality of our business and the job that we do, there’s no such thing–nobody’s locked in to being here,” said Carpenter. “Whether you’re on a long-term contract or you’re the so-called face of the franchise. It doesn’t matter. If they want to move you, they’re going to move you. If they get the right package for that or it looks like the right move for the future, they’re going to do it. I don’t know what that looks like for this group. Going forward, I don’t know what the plans are but they certainly have made it known that they are looking to change some things. So we’ll see. I think it’s going to be an interesting off-season for all of us.”
And as he has said before, what position Carpenter plays in 2018 makes no difference to him.
“I can’t say this enough, but it’s just a fact–I don’t care where I play as long as it makes us better,” said Carpenter. “If my role is the everyday first baseman and it makes us a better team, then that’s what I’m going to do. If it’s the third baseman, second base, if it’s the guy who plays 30 at each spot then I’m fine with that. Just want to win. Just want to help. Just want to contribute and whatever that looks like, wherever they’ll have me then I’ll be ready for it.”
Acknowledging that where Carpenter will play next year is still yet to be decided, Mike Matheny shared his parting advice for the infielder.
“I think he should focus on strength and focus on quickness–and probably the quickness over the strength,” said Matheny, renewing the goal of more athleticism for the Cardinals. “That leads to a lot of plyometrics and a lot of very focused training on that first step. Because you have that, he’s going to have the potential to help us in a number of spots.”
This season, Carpenter logged 949.1 innings at first base.
“Night and day,” he said of his growing comfort at first. “Spring training for me didn’t go as planned. I didn’t get a time to rep like I had hoped with missing the World Baseball Classic and all that stuff. Didn’t really get to do what I wanted to do and started off slow. But I felt like as the year went on, it became a position that I did a really good job at–got some praise from the people I value, teammates and coaches. So there was improvement there. Is it a finished product? No. I’m going to go home this off-season and I’ve got things I need to work on and I’m going to continue that–at all positions, because as we know every year I have a spot and end up going to a different one. But that’s my goal this off-season, to be ready to do anything but improve at every spot.”
Besides the time at first base, Carpenter also played 111.0 innings at third base, plus another 103.0 at second base.
$180,000 FOR HOUSTON
–With the six homeruns he hit to finish off the season after Hurricane Harvey, Matt Carpenter helped raise $180,000 for those in need in Houston, TX.
“That was a really cool thing to be a part of,” said Carpenter. “I can’t say enough about what Adam and the DeWitt family and the Cardinals matching that pledge with me what that means, not only to me but to the city of Houston. Just a really cool thing. Then to hit a few home runs, I certainly would’ve liked to have hit even more but to raise $180,000 that otherwise wouldn’t have, pretty cool.”
Carpenter and his wife, Mackenzie, donated their $10,000 directly to the Red Cross in Houston for each of his six home runs. That total was matched by Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals.
photo credit: Aaron Doster, Jeff Curry, Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports